20 November 2009
of more than 1000 Australian troops and civilians who lost their lives in the sinking of the Montevideo Maru in 1942 have had a breakthrough in their campaign for greater understanding of the tragedy.

The Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, Alan Griffin, told the Herald yesterday: ”I think we all agree now that the detail and the significance of the event have not received appropriate recognition in the past.”

He said the Government would investigate the possibility of declaring the site of the sinking, off the Philippines, an official war grave, and assist family and friends in raising funds for a memorial in Canberra.

His statement followed a meeting with a delegation from the Montevideo Maru Memorial Committee led by its chairman, Keith Jackson, and Kim Beazley, ambassador designate to the US, whose uncle died on the ship.

Mr Jackson welcomed the Government’s support, but said provision of a memorial – probably in the grounds of the Australian War Memorial – would cost between $500,000 and $1 million.

”It will require public fund-raising on a massive scale, which the Government will support.”

Mr Jackson said the meeting had been productive and had achieved breakthroughs in several other areas.

The War Memorial will include a permanent Montevideo Maru display in its revamped World War II galleries. The Government will renew the search for Japanese papers bearing the names of those who died on the ship.

”It will also be represented on and support the formation of a working party to ensure the story of the invasion of Rabaul and the sinking of the ship becomes a more recognised part of Australian history.”

The Montevideo Maru, which was being used by the Japanese to move civilians and prisoners of war, was sunk by mistake by the submarine USS Sturgeon. It remains the worst maritime disaster in Australia’s history.

Source: Sydney Morning Herald, 20 November 2009